IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


18th June, 2020

DNA 18TH June


Multilateralism post COVID-19

This editorial discusses the future of multilateralism.

International institutions underperforming

-The COVID-19 outbreak has placed all international institutions under a magnifying glass.

-By any measure, most have performed below par.

-Such is the caution espoused that multilateralism today seems to have reverted to its version 0.1.

-The General Assembly now passes resolutions through no-objection procedure.

-The Security Council has been found wanting in no small measure.

-The 75th session’s ‘leader’s week’ runs the risk of being reduced to a video playback session.

Pursuit of change by threatening to leave

-It is true that functioning of multilateral institutions requires reform.

-They need to adapt to new realities.

-However, the pursuit of change by threatening to leave multilateral institutions is a phenomenon we witnessed only during the period of the League of Nations.

-One state followed another in bidding goodbye, until the League’s final demise.

Second World War institutions have survived departures

-The post Second World War multilateral institutions have survived such departures.

-The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris and the Human Rights Council in Geneva have survived the departure of the U.S.

-The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Vienna continues despite the withdrawal of the U.S. and many others.

-The World Health Organization (WHO), notwithstanding its visible shortcomings, will survive U.S. threats.

-The reasons are simple. Multilateral organisations serve desperately felt global needs of the vast membership.

-The pandemic has reinforced the desire for greater global cooperation amongst most states.

Will the current multi-lateral order survive China’s onslaught?

-It is true that Chinese nationals head four multilateral organisations.

-It is also true that Chinese nationals have failed in campaigns to head UNESCO and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

-Despite contributing nearly 10% of the UN’s budget, Chinese nationals are not exactly over-represented in terms of staff positions.

-China has certainly risen up the multilateral pantheon and is able to better promote its interests.

-It has warded off attacks against it in multilateral fora, at times with the aid of the heads of these organisations.

-However, it is yet to display an ability to set the multilateral agenda and dominate the discourse on an array of issues, in the manner that the U.S. once indispensably did.

-China’s flagship venture, the Belt and Road Initiative, remains only on the fringes of multilateral fora.

-Neither in monetary terms nor in substantive inputs are there portents of a ‘Chinese takeover’.

-Amidst this, multilateral bodies are populated by a plethora of small and middle states quietly working to restore equilibrium, when the balance tends to shift.

-The capture of the existing multilateral order by a new hegemon is antithetical to the ethos of multilateralism.

-Multilateralism thrives on the notion of the Lilliputians tying up Gulliver — old or new.

Evolving multilateralism: not a choice between collapse and capture

-Between collapse and capture, there are other pathways.

-Multilateral architecture places a premium on structures over functions, processes over substance.

-It slows down the change of any sort.

-The same processes that have stalled change in the past will militate against a takeover in the future.

-Does that mean that multilateralism will meander meaninglessly?

-It will meander, but perhaps not meaninglessly.

-The ‘pluri-laterals’ and the emerging ‘mini-laterals’ each have their place in terms of international agenda-setting, but global norm-setting requires inclusivity that they lack.

What is the opportunity for India?

-Being able to shape the discourse at an incipient stage is a good perch to be on.

-Issue-specific ‘coalitions of the willing’ are catalysts.

-As a growing power, India needs to avail of such avenues.

-However, by themselves, these will not do justice to the depth and variety of India’s interests and our stakes in global cooperation.

-Also, they are not holistic solutions in ensuring global acceptance of norms.

Essence of multilateralism

-Responses of states during the COVID-19 crisis point to more emphasis on sovereign decision making than before.

-The imprimatur for acting on behalf of the global community is not going to be available easily.

-On myriad issues, from sustainable development to the environment, from climate change to pandemics and cyberspace to outer space, the demands for ‘nothing about us without us’ are likely to increase.

-Since stakeholders perceive that their stakes have risen, they will call for enhanced engagement.

-Convening such stakeholders in pursuit of global goals is the essence of multilateralism.

We need to patiently promote reforms while building partnerships to avail opportunities, which may arise for more fundamental change. We need to bide our time without hiding our intent.




Why did North Korea blow up a joint liaison office with Seoul?

North Korea blew up the joint liaison office with South Korea in Kaesong, an industrial township on its side of the border, becoming one of the most serious incidents to have occurred between the two countries, without them actually going to war.

What is this liaison office?

-In 2003, North Korea and South Korea jointly set up a liaison office at Kaesong in North Korea.

-It was set up in 2018 to facilitate communication between North Korea and South Korea.

-The Kaesong Industrial Complex is a joint industrial zone where factories are operated and run by both North Koreans and South Koreans.

-At its height, approximately 120 factories were operating in this industrial zone with more than 50,000 North Korean employees and several hundred managers.

Why did Pyongyang demolish it?

-Since the past week, tensions between the two countries had increased after Pyongyang objected to activists and defectors in South Korea sending anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets, rice and Bibles using balloons.

-Experts believe that these moves come after North Korea’s frustrations at South Korea’s inability to revive inter-Korean economic projects under pressure from the US, along with UN sanctions.

What can happen now?

-The demolition occurred just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong had threatened to destroy the liaison office.

-Following the demolition, North Korean said that it would be deploying troops in demilitarized areas, including in the Kaesong industrial zone.

Heading towards war?

-Observers say that these actions by North Korea have been the most provocative in recent years.

-Experts believe these provocations may have occurred because Pyongyang is hoping to pressure Seoul into giving it more concessions that would be economically beneficial for North Korea that has been hit hard by sanctions.

-Experts believe these actions, however provocative, are not severe enough for Seoul to contemplate military aggression in retaliation.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/why-north-korea-blew-up-a-joint-liaison-office-and-what-it-means-for-relations-with-seoul-6463170/



Rapid antigen test

The Context: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended the use of Standard Q COVID-19 Ag antigen detection test in containment zones and healthcare settings in combination with the RT-PCR test.

The is to be used in specified settings, and kits from only one manufacturer have got approval– the South Korean company S D Biosensor.

What are antigens?

Antigens are foreign substances that induce an immune response in the body.

What is the rapid antigen detection test for Covid-19?

-It is a test on swabbed nasal samples that detects antigens that are found on or within the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

-It is a point-of-care test, performed outside the conventional laboratory setting, and is used to quickly obtain a diagnostic result.

How is rapid antigen detection test different from RT-PCR test?

-Like RT-PCR, the rapid antigen detection test too seeks to detect the virus rather than the antibodies produced by the body.

-The most significant difference between the two is time.

-RT-PCR test takes a minimum of 2-5 hours including the time taken for sample transportation.

-In a rapid antigen detection test, the maximum duration for interpreting a positive or negative test is 30 minutes.

Limitations of an antigen test’s results:

-These tests are very specific for the virus, but are not as sensitive as molecular PCR tests. This means that positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate, but there is a higher chance of false negatives, so negative results do not rule out infection.

-Negative results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed with a PCR test prior to making treatment decisions or to prevent the possible spread of the virus due to a false negative.

-Once the sample is collected in the extraction buffer, it is stable only for one hour. Therefore, the antigen test needs to be conducted at the site of sample collection in the healthcare setting.




Housing Finance Companies

Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed stringent norms for housing finance companies.

Proposed norms:

-At least 50% of net assets should be in the nature of ‘qualifying assets’ for HFCs, of which at least 75% should be towards individual housing loans.

-Such HFCs which do not fulfil the criteria will be treated as NBFC – Investment and Credit Companies (NBFC-ICCs) and will be required to approach the RBI for conversion of their Certificate of Registration from HFC to NBFC-ICC.

-The NBFC-ICCs which want to continue as HFCs would have to follow a roadmap to make 75% of their assets individual housing loans.

-The target has been set at 60% by March 31, 2022, 70% by March 31, 2023, and 75% by March 31, 2024.

-It has also proposed a minimum net-owned fund (NOF) of ₹20 crore as compared to ₹10 crore now. Existing HFCs would have to reach ₹15 crore within a year and ₹20 crore within two years.

What are qualifying assets?

The RBI defined ‘qualifying assets’ as loans to individuals or a group of individuals, including co-operative societies, for construction/purchase of new dwelling units, loans to individuals for renovation of existing dwelling units, lending to builders for construction of residential dwelling units.

Non-banking financial company:

-A housing finance company is considered a non-banking financial company (NBFC) under the RBI’s regulations.

-A company is treated as an NBFC if its financial assets are more than 50% of its total assets and income from financial assets is more than 50% of the gross income.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/rbi-to-tighten-rules-for-home-finance-firms/article31854231.ece



Khelo india state centres of excellence (KISCE)


The Sports Ministry is all set to establish Khelo India State Centres of Excellence (KISCE) under the ministry’s flagship, Khelo India Scheme to enhance India's Olympic performance.

More features:

One KISCE will be identified in each state and union territory, with an effort to create a robust sporting ecosystem in the entire country.

In the first leg, the Ministry has identified state-owned sports facilities in eight states of India, including, Karnataka, Odisha, Kerala, Telengana and the north east states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland which will be upgraded into KISCE.

The State and Union Territory will run the centre and build capacity to turn it into the world-class sporting facility.

They will be responsible for all aspects of management of the centre including, boarding, lodging and maintenance, while funds for expert coaches, supporting staff, equipments, infrastructure will be extended through the Khelo India Scheme.

Source: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1632031

Prelims Specific


China has accorded the pangolin the highest level of protection and removed the scales of the endangered mammal from its list of approved traditional medicines.

More information:

-Pangolin is only scaly mammal on the planet.

-According to CITES, it is also the most illegally traded vertebrate within its class (Mammalia).

-Of the eight species of pangolin worldwide, two are found in India. They are Chinese pangolin, mostly found in northeast India and Indian pangolin.

-Chinese pangolin has been listed as “critically endangered”.

-Indian pangolin (Maniscrassicaudata) has been listed as “endangered”.

-It is also a Schedule I category protected animal, under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).